Arizona should honor O’Connor by following her lead - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Arizona should honor O’Connor by following her lead

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Joseph Garcia is director of communications for the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, a nonpartisan research organization at Arizona State University.

Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 11:00 am | Updated: 11:21 am, Sat Jul 16, 2011.

It was 30 years ago that President Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O'Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court - a selection that not only rocked the male-dominated legal world, but shattered 1,000 glass ceilings elsewhere since she would become the first female appointment to the high court.

Meg Waite Clayton, best-selling novelist of "The Four Ms. Bradwells and The Wednesday Sisters," has a nice tribute blog on Huffington Post that reads, in part:

"To fulfill his campaign pledge, President Reagan nominated a relatively unknown Arizona state judge to be his first appointment to the Supreme Court on July 7, 1981. ‘My nomination was a great surprise to the nation, but an even greater surprise to me,' Sandra Day O'Connor has said. She looked not all that different than the typical woman of the time: she wore rose-colored dresses and lavender suits - with skirts rather than pants, often with a scarf or pearls at her throat. ‘When I first ran for state legislature,' she has said, ‘it was simply a matter of political reality that, in order to get elected, a woman had to appear and act ‘feminine.' People gave up their traditional notions only grudgingly.'"

There is no mistaking O'Connor's femininity - nor her unabashed departures from being "lady like" in order to get across an important point. Like a seasoned umpire with a keen but consistent strike zone, she calls it like she sees it. A rancher's daughter, she also can quickly identify the bull from the herd, so to speak.

O'Connor - more of a humanist than feminist, in my opinion - is committed to establishing a better Arizona, a state that can separate itself from political ideology in the interest of truly doing what's best for all of its residents instead of a narrow or partisan constituency.

The transplanted and preserved O'Connor House in Papago Park stands not so much as a building honoring its former resident and arguably Arizona's greatest statesperson, but as a testament to the strong foundation for a better future that must be built on nonpartisan, collaborative and civil discourse, dialogue and debate.

In her speech on Arizona and civil discourse at the 2009 State of Our State Conference, O'Connor gave voice to that spirit:

"Compromise does not have to be viewed as a weak word. Rather, it can be a strong commitment to moving forward, instead of standing still or, worse yet, going in opposite directions. At times we must compromise our individual interests so we do not compromise our collective future."

O'Connor is a true gem in a state presently better known for throwing rocks. We must return to the days of rolling up our sleeves and working together, identifying the precious stones of today and diamonds in the rough of tomorrow.

Forever the jurist, literally (Supreme Court justices are appointed for life and sometimes serve on appellate cases) and metaphorically, O'Connor continues to show outstanding wisdom in declaring where Arizona needs to go - forward and together.

A lasting and fitting tribute would be for Arizona to demonstrate equally sound judgment in following O'Connor's direction, as well as her lifetime of examples, through meaningful words, actions, deeds and vision.

• Joseph Garcia is director of communications at Morrison Institute for Public Policy, a nonpartisan research center at Arizona State University. His blog can be found at

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